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Marois supports CETA, but demands details on federal compensation for cheese

The Canadian Press reports, “Premier Pauline Marois says the Quebec legislature will not endorse the Canada-Europe free-trade agreement until Ottawa explains how it will compensate the province’s cheese producers. Marois says she will present the accord in the National Assembly only when that detail has been finalized.”

“The Premier issued the warning (at a luncheon organized by the Canada-Belgium-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce) in Brussels while on a tour of Europe. She insisted her stand does not put the deal in danger. Marois pointed out there is no published text and many details still need to be worked out.”

“Marois said after a meeting with Michel Barnier, the European commissioner for internal market and services, that she sees advantages in the free-trade deal but the cheese issue had ’caused some problems’. Small producers of Quebec cheese fear they could lose $450-million a year because of the European competition. The federal government has said it will offer compensation but neither the details nor the amount have been determined.”

“The Quebec government has estimated the free-trade deal with Europe will bring the province $2.2-billion per year and create 16,000 jobs. …Marois (says) the Parti Québécois has always supported free trade.”

iPolitics has explained, “Under the proposed CETA, the federal government will allow 16,000 tonnes of additional European fine cheese and 1,700 tonnes of industrial cheese into Canada. Ninety-two percent of the Canadian cheese market will be exclusively held by Canadian producers, (the minister of state for small business and tourism Maxime) Bernier said, adding the government believes rising domestic demand for cheese will absorb any change made to market access. …Trade Minister Ed Fast (has stated), ‘We’ve told the dairy farmers that if there is a decline in production as a result of additional access from the EU, which is only 4 per cent by the way, we are prepared to make them whole’.”

In mid-October, the National Post reported that the Harper government has agreed to allow the European Union to export twice the amount of cheese into Canada currently permitted as a way to remove a last obstacle to the signing of the Canada-EU free trade agreement. That article noted, “Pauline Marois, the Quebec premier, has said that her Parti Québécois government will oppose any deal that is unacceptable to the province — home to a large number of protected dairy farmers. Ottawa is concerned that the (deal) could become a political football in the next Quebec election, which could come as soon as December.”

Clearly that election hasn’t happened, but perhaps we’ll see this story continue to develop in the new year. Last week, the Globe and Mail reported that a general election in Quebec is widely expected in the spring.